I’m out-straight busy most days and I don’t have a lot of time to spend on social media. Still, I like to know how Coastal Journal stories are faring in the fickle winds of Facebook, especially when it looks like a story is having a good run.

That happened last week with our cover story about the seasonal worker shortage faced by many Midcoast businesses (“Help Wanted and getting hard to find,” Aug. 3, 2017).

I was pleased the story generated likes, shares, and comments, but it concerns me that so many people said the problem is either people “on assistance” who don’t want to work or “lazy and entitled kids” who don’t want to work.

I’ll save my campaign to end the demonizing of poor people for another day, and for now focus on a few things you need to know about these “lazy and entitled kids.”

1. Legally, in Maine, kids ages 14 and 15 can only work 8 hours a day, never before 7 a.m. and not after 9 p.m. during summer vacation, for no more than 40 hours a week when school is not in session. And they can only do that in certain workplaces that won’t “jeopardize their health, well-being or educational opportunities.” (Good luck with life, guys.)

When I was 14, I worked round the clock at a bluegrass festival for three days. By the time I was 16, I moved out for the summer to work as a waitress in Boothbay Harbor.

So, a kid shows up to work at 16 or 17 (there are rules here, too, only slightly less restrictive than their younger colleagues) with perhaps zero practical experience … that seems too late to me.

How are they supposed to cultivate the kind of work ethic employers value when instead of working at 14 or 15, they went to summer camp for an extra year (or two), because that’s better than a teenager sitting around the house on their Xbox, laptop or phone?

2. Speaking of devices. No better not. Except to say that we have a generation of dialed up kids who may only feel a sense of power and control in their lives when they’re changing the hair on their Nintendo Wii Mii for the millionth time or solving strategic problems in “Dark Souls.”

OK. I guess I am going there.

At a child’s conference at the end of the last school year, I received some praise. No, no. Wait. It’s not like that. I mean, don’t think me sanctimonious or anything. My parenting is as thankless as everyone else’s.

My son’s teachers expressed appreciation that we EAT DINNER AT THE TABLE as a family most nights … and even more, we do it without PHONES.

Good to know we got something right.

3. Kids are the product of our culture. They’re growing up in a time of Individual Education Plans for everyone. Stressed, anxious, tough circumstances beyond your control? Here’s a diagnosis, some pills, and/or a handy 504 to make sure your unique needs are accommodated in every classroom forever.

Not judging. One of my kids has a 504. Wonderful thing, that legal document that ensures a kid can thrive in an educational setting. I want that for him. I want that for all my kids, and all kids everywhere for all time.

Another one of my kids even had a IEP, which is designed to meet the needs of a kid with learning disabilities. Come to find out my son’s “slow processing speed” at one school was interpreted alongside his over-the-top standardized test scores very differently at another.

By the way, can I get an IEP? A 504? Can I get what I need to be successful and comfortable and even happy on a piece of paper that I can share with people so they know when I need more help or to be left alone?

See, these kids who have grown up in a public school culture that attempts to help them in every way carry with them into their young adult lives an unprecedented awareness of what they need to succeed, and an expectation that they will be supported.

I’ve had this conversation repeatedly as a teacher of freshman English classes for the last 10 years. It took me a long time to get over the fact that when I showed up in composition class in 1989, it was “do or don’t do. There is no try,” to quote Yoda, the great guru of my generation.

My students — God bless them — are good and truly baffled when they don’t get more time to turn something in, or unlimited attempts to get it right, or a low grade even though “they tried.”

(And don’t get me started on the calls from concerned parents of 20-year-olds.)

4. But wait. Could I become one of those parents as my son heads off to college?

Administrators didn’t even glance in my direction when we attended a campus tour in the spring. It was like I wasn’t even there. Every question was addressed to my son.

And without fail he looked to me to answer for him.

A financial aid person said to him, “Mum is not going to be here in a couple months. You need to know these answers.”

It was a slap of reality for both of us.

I can’t speak for other parents, but I can tell you that in my 18 years of mothering, I’ve probably done too much. I don’t believe I’ve ever quite achieved Helicopter Mom status, but in my effort to be a good listener, someone the boys could talk with, to be in a deep and respectful relationship with them, I’ve probably gotten involved in creating solutions to problems they needed to solve.

Why? Because that’s what I valued. I appreciated the people in my young life who took the time to really see and know me. I wanted to be that for my kids.

Are they lazy and entitled because of it?

No.

I imagine they carry with them an expectation that they can have a range of emotional responses in a variety of settings and will be listened to when they speak up and treated with a kind of respect for them as people (even though they don’t have a lot of years under them yet) because that’s the model they grew up with.
And guess what? That ain’t the real world after all, kids.

Not yet anyway.